Messages Hidden in Bird Calls or Music Could Be Used to Hijack Your Voice Assistant

Virtual assistants are supposed to make our lives easier, but a disturbing new revelation shows how they could be used for evil. In what sounds like a Black Mirror episode, Fast Company notes that hackers could theoretically disguise commands as ordinary sounds—like a bird’s chirps or music—and broadcast them across apps or TV commercials. These messages, while imperceptible to human ears, would be specially coded so that a virtual assistant like Alexa or Cortana could pick up on them and act accordingly.

This discovery comes from scientists at Germany’s Ruhr-University Bochum, who have been studying “adversarial attacks.” These “optical illusions for machines,” as non-profit research company OpenAI puts it, occur when the information fed into a machine learning system is designed to confuse it and produce an error.

According to researchers, hackers could hide messages in songs, speech, or other sounds that only a voice assistant could “hear.” This could result in unauthorized purchases being made or private information being compromised. Consider the following clip, for example.

The audio sounds a bit off, but the hidden message—“deactivate security camera and unlock front door”—is impossible to understand, according to an experiment involving 22 test subjects. After listening to the commands, none of the listeners were able to understand or transcribe what was said. This discovery and other findings led the researchers to conclude, “in general, it is possible to hide any target transcription within any audio file" [PDF].

This isn’t the first time privacy and information security concerns have surfaced in regard to voice assistants. A study last year found that Alexa could pick up on “whisper” commands that fell outside the range of human hearing. And last May, Alexa recorded an Oregon woman’s private conversations with her husband and randomly sent them to one of her contacts in Seattle. Fortunately, they were only talking about hardwood floors, but Alexa still got the boot.

Amazon told Co.Design that the company is looking into researchers' latest findings. Until then, you might not want to trust your voice assistant with your most sensitive information or darkest secrets.

[h/t Fast Company]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Hold High-Quality Zoom Meetings and Video Streams With the Logitech C922x Webcam


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The year of social distancing has brought everything from college courses to Thanksgiving dinner to a webcam stream, but not all cameras are created equal—most of the time, there’s one lagging video participant who is always blurry and frozen. You can avoid being that person with this Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam, which is 30 percent off today.

This webcam is designed for content streaming and broadcasting, so it's built with a full HD lens that records at 30 frames per second to eliminate lagging frames during fast movement or games. It also has an autofocus feature to optimize lighting and two integrated microphones with noise reduction. All of these features are in one compact device that can automatically improve your picture and audio without you doing a thing.

The Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam is also perfect for gaming streams on sites like Twitch and YouTube—so much so that it even comes with a free six-month Xsplit license, which will help you control the various aspects of your broadcast like sound levels, text overlays, music, graphics, and lighting. You’ll be able to record, edit, and broadcast your stream with professional quality.

Whether you need a better quality picture for weekly check-ins with your boss or a higher frame rate for capturing gaming, the Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam can help with tons of features, a free six-month Xsplit license, and a 30 percent discount today, bringing the final price down to $140.

Prices subject to change.

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